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san antonio (27 Jun 2003)
las vegas (7 Apr 2003)
orlando (10 Dec 2002)
boston (Feb 2002)
san antonio (10 Apr 2000)


copyright 2001-2003
Tom Ferguson

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Tom Ferguson, MD
    Senior Research Fellow for Online Health
    Pew Internet & American Life Project
    Washington, DC

    Adjunct Associate Professor of Consumer Health Informatics
    School of Health Information Sciences, University of Texas Health Science Center
    Houston, TX

    Senior Associate
    Center for Clinical Computing
    Boston, MA

    Editor & Publisher
    The Ferguson Report: The Newsletter of Online Health (
    Austin, TX

    Contact information:
    Phone: 512.474.1141
    Fax: 512.474.8444
    Mailing address: P.O.Box 50540, Austin TX 78763
What They're Saying About Tom Ferguson
Everything you always wanted to know about DocTom-but were too polite to ask.

Online Health Links

The Ferguson Report: The Newsletter of Online Health
A free, e-mail newsletter for health and computer professionals who are developing online patient resources, online patient services and consumer interfaces for health-related IT systems. Our latest issue features an article on Type 1 vs. Type 2 online docs. You can read all current & back issues & sign up for a free subscription at:

"The Online Health Care Revolution How the Web Helps Americans Take Better Care of Themselves" (Our Latest Pew Internet Health Survey)
Key Findings:
  1. More Internet users (55%) have used the net to find health information than have used it to go shopping, look up stock quotes, or check sports scores.
  2. Slightly more than half of online health seekers (54% vs. 43%) said that the information they were seeking was for someone else--most commonly, their child, family member, or friend.
  3. Of those who have turned to the Net for health information, 92 percent say the information they found during their last online search was useful--and 81 percent said they learned something new.
  4. More than four in ten health seekers (41 percent) say that the material they found during their last online search affected their decisions about whether they should go to the doctor, how to treat an illness, or how to question their physician.
  5. Top Three Reasons health seekers say they like the Internet:
    • I can get health info when it is convenient. (93%)
    • The Net provides more information than other sources. (83%)
    • I can search the Net anonymously. (80%)
  6. Unlike other uses of the Net (e.g., online auctions or online banking) the "digital divide" has little or no effect on health seeking behavior. Use of the Net for health purposes is consistent across all income and racial groupings studied.
  7. Forty-eight percent of all Internet users who have gone online for medical information say the advice they found on the Web has improved the way they take care of themselves. And 55 percent report that the Internet improves the way they get health care information.
  8. Forty-seven percent of those who sought information on their own illness said that the materials they found affected their decisions about medical treatments and care.
  9. Eight times as many searchers looked for info on physical illness than on fitness or nutrition. And 3-1/2 times as many looked for info on physical illnesses than on mental illnesses.
  10. Sixty percent of Internet users think that putting medical records online is a bad thing, even if they are on a secure, password-protected site, because they would worry about other people seeing their personal information.
The Online Health Care Revolution: How the Web helps Americans take better care of themselves
You can download the whole report at

"Online Patient-helpers and Physicians Working Together: A New Partnership for High quality Health Care," Tom Ferguson
British Medical Journal i
Vol. 321, Pp. 1129-1132, Nov 4, 2000 "In January 1998 Karen Parles, a 38 year old librarian at a major New York art museum, learned that she had lung cancer. "My doctors told me it was incurable, that I had only a few months to live," she recalls. "I'm a life-long nonsmoker, so the whole thing came as quite a shock. I was pretty overwhelmed at first. But as soon as I could, I went on to the internet, looking for information. And I asked all my friends to help...."
Continued at:

"Digital Doctoring: Opportunities and Challenges in Electronic Patient-Physician Communication," Tom Ferguson (Editorial)
Journal of the American Medical Association
Vol. 280, No. 15 "The Internet is an increasingly popular medical information resource for consumers. A 1997 survey indicated that 43% of the estimated 40.6 million US adults aged 18 years and older who had accessed the Internet within the previous 12 months used it to obtain health or medical information. At least 10,000 health and medical sites are on the World Wide Web, and are maintained by entities ranging from academic medical centers and professional organizations to individuals. Thousands of other online self-help and support groups, electronic bulletin boards, and mailing lists also are available, covering topics ranging from acne to yeast infections. Fridsma et al have suggested that many patients who go online are increasingly interested in exchanging e-mail with their physicians. In a 1996 survey, Brown found that patients ranked "information from my own doctor's office" as the type of online health information they desired most..."
Continued at:

Report of a Recent Online Health Conference at Harvard School of Public Health
Harvard Net News "Anthropologists believe that a society moves through five stages of response when new technology is introduced: Ignore, resist, substitute, innovate, and finally, transform. Dr. Tom Ferguson thinks that in response to the Internet, the medical community is hovering around the first three stages...."
Continued at

"Guidelines for the Clinical Use of Electronic Mail with Patients"
AMIA Working Group Task Force on Guidelines for the Use of Clinic-Patient E-mail (Dr. Ferguson is one of the members of this Task Force)
Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association,
Vol. 5, No. 1, Jan/Feb 1998, pp. 104-111
This is the original set of guidelines on this topic--upon which all others have been based. An updated set of guidelines is currently in the works. For other sets of guidelines, see Danny Sands' page, below.

Danny Sands' Clinical Use of Doctor-Patient E-mail Page
Danny Sands, at Harvard's Center for Clinical Computing offers a central source of constantly-updated information for providers who would like to communicate with their patients online. His site offers tips for physicians, tips for patients, and several sets of guidelines for developing clinic-based systems for doctor-patient e-mail. There are links to the best medical journal articles, to other centers that make extensive use of e-mail with patients, and to related news stories, professional organizations, companies offering related services, and other useful goodies. Highly recommended for all health professionals interested in developing online patient services.